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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

THE DISPERSION OF GREEK EDUCATION     55

initiated by Ezra the scribe, who in 444 B.C. put before the people
for their guidance the Law as it now appears in the five books of
Moses.

The central position which the written Law now took in the
life of the Jews was a fact of the greatest importance from the
educational point of view. The Jewish religion became for the
first time the religion of a Book. This meant that at the least
it was necessary to have some people with a literary education
sufficient to enable them to read and understand the Book; and
the need became greater in the century after K^ra when the Jews
gradually ceased to speak Hebrew and spoke Aramaic, a language
as different from Hebrew as German is from English. With the
Greeks, as we have seen, the possession of Homer at the corres-
ponding period of educational development had the effect of
creating a general demand for education and calling schools into
being. The religious character of the Jewish Book produced a
rather different effect* Ultimately it led to popular education,
but, in the first instance, it only gave rise to an educated class
called the scribes, who made it their special task to reproduce the
text of the Law, and to interpret it for the people at large. And
instead of the school, there appeared (either in this period or
under Hellenic influences in the next) the synagogue. This
institution was perhaps inevitable in the special circumstances of
the Jews. According to the Levitical Law promulgated by Ezra,
Jehovah could only be worshipped in the Temple, and only the
priestly families in the line of descent from Aaron could act as
intermediaries between Him and the people. Hence there could
be no worship away from Jerusalem- Obviously, if the people in
other parts of the land had been left to themselves, they would
soon have lapsed into the heathen practices of their neighbours.
To prevent this, synagogues sprang up, first in the main towns,
and later in all the villages* Prayers were recited in the syna-
gogues, but the main purpose of the services was not worship* but
instruction in the Law. The word applied to the exposition of
the Law in the synagogues throughout the New Testament is
&&<<W| "teaching.0 Jesus "taught" in the synagogues;
and so did Paul and other apostles. The synagogues in this way
became centres of education for the people.

When the Persians were conquered by Alexander the Great,
the Jews passed under Greek control So far as religion was